Sep 14, 2012, 12:00 PM EDT
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The Nats and Braves meet this weekend for the final time … in the regular season.
It has loomed on the schedule for weeks, a mid-September showdown with the only team that still had a chance to overtake the Nationals in the NL East. But then the Nationals kept winning, the Braves started losing and now the two teams enter this weekend series in Atlanta with 8 1/2 games separating themselves.
And that unexpected turn could leave the Nationals in a really unexpected position by the time they leave town late Sunday night: having all but clinched the franchise's first division title.
Even in a worst-case scenario, the Nationals will end the weekend holding a still-comfortable, 5 1/2-game lead with 16 to play. If they win just once at Turner Field, they'll maintain a 7 1/2-game lead. If they take two of three, that lead jumps to 9 1/2 games. And if, by some chance, they happen to sweep … well an 11 1/2-game lead with 16 to go is mighty tough to surrender.
Not that anyone in the clubhouse is speaking in those terms, at least not in public.
"Obviously, we have a big series coming up these next three days," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "We need to go down there andRead more »
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